California's Great America

#8 in Best Things To Do in San Jose
California's Great America picture
Courtesy California's Great America

Key Info

4701 Great America Parkway

Details

Amusement Parks Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
3.5

scorecard

  • 2.5Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

It's no Disneyland, but this theme park in the Santa Clara neighborhood (about a 15-minute drive from downtown San Jose) will surely satisfy your family's craving for thrilling rides, water park fun and live entertainment. While the high-flying coasters like Flight Deck steal most of the attention (and the wait times), the theme park offers a wide variety of carnivalesque booths along with a few entertaining performances. You'll find many of the families with younger children enjoying the smaller thrills of Planet Snoopy. And to make this into a great summer attraction, Great America also offers the Boomerang Bay Water Park and its fun slides, cabana and wave pool.

Most visitors recommend planning a trip to California's Great America if you've got kids in tow, praising the manageable size and fun water park. However, more than a few reviewers complained of the overpriced, tasteless food offered on-site and suggested skipping meals inside the park in favor of the neighborhood's more affordable options.

California's Great America maintains a seasonal schedule, so check the park's online calendar before planning a visit. From the end of March through September, the park opens at 10 a.m. and closes between 5:30 and 10 p.m. depending on the day and month. The Boomerang Bay Water Park operates on separate hours and days. And there are also special hours for its Halloween-themed day in October. Single-day tickets cost $38.99 per person if purchased online. If you buy your ticket at the gate, expect to pay $67 per person. You'll also save a few bucks on parking if you pre-purchase your pass online ($15 online versus $18 at the park). For more information, check out the park's website.

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#1 Santana Row

Where do Silicon Valley tycoons go to spend their money? To Santana Row, a chic shopping development just a short drive west of downtown San Jose. Here you'll find delectable eateries, a movie theater and designer shops like Gucci and Kate Spade. And the apartments and the Hotel Valencia built above the ground-floor businesses create an urban vibe that particularly takes off at night when Santana Row becomes a nightlife hub. Many recent travelers claim that this is the best people-watching spot in the city. Also keep your eyes on the parking lot: Exotic sports cars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris are often spotted here.

The shops and restaurants open around 10 a.m. and close around 9 p.m., although many that cater to the late-night crowds will stay open well past then. Visitors should be aware that parking can be extremely limited at busy times, so you might have to leave your car across the street at the less-trendy Westfield Valley Fair mall. For more information about special events and specific store hours, check out Santana Row's website.

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